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Alistair Haimes: The virus that turned up late

This is an article by Alistair Haimes, who has worked with data professionally for 25 years. Alistair has recently published two articles in the Critic magazine.

Covid-19 is no more than a nasty, but basically normal, viral respiratory infection, though you’ll be regarded rather as a mullah regards a blasphemer if you say so. Why is this?

After all: it is precisely because its symptoms seemed so similar to viral pneumonia that the initial outbreak in Wuhan was missed until the numbers built, and it is now clear that we have been missing Covid-19 cases diagnosed as pneumonia in Europe at least as far back as December, probably earlier. In the vernacular: it looks as though it was bubbling away for ages before we noticed.

But if this is really the killer that has forced the biggest suspension of civil liberties since Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, what is so unusual about it? Where are the Emperor’s clothes?

Given that my daughter is having a tap-dancing lesson on Zoom in the neighbouring room as I type, one obvious difference is that we declared lockdown for this but for no previous killer disease; but rewinding, what is so unusual about the virus that produces the disease that provoked the lockdown?

The clue is right under our noses. Let me play a latter-day Poirot.

Below is a graph showing the numbers of Covid-19 patients who have died each day in NHS hospitals in England (clickable larger version at end of article):

The shape is textbook normal – and I mean ‘normal’ mathematically: as in, it’s an epidemic bell curve, and it’s a great ‘fit’. Forget trying to spot the hockey-stick impact of lockdown: this curve is basically identical to Free Sweden’s; and if the lockdown hypothesis were true, Stockholm would by now be a morgue and Greater Tokyo (population 38 million) a necropolis. (When I complain about people fearfully embracing their incarceration I can no longer even use the phrase ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, and that makes me angry.)

How about the numbers who succumb to the disease (the y-axis, i.e. the height of the bars)? Deaths per day, as is well-reported, peaked around Easter; and because deaths lag infections by something around three weeks, this implies that infections peaked sometime in mid-March. If you add up all the bars in the chart and fill in the blank area of deaths still to come, we are looking at a killer that, in scale, is bad-but-nothing-special compared to killers of previous years. Panning out: as a killer worldwide, it looks as though Covid is going to take a toll perhaps 1% of 1918’s Spanish Flu.

So what’s so unusual? Actually, look again: the clue is in the dates running along the bottom of the graph, showing that deaths peaked on 8th April. Deaths followed a regular path up to that date, and are following a regular path down again; but the middle of the bell-curve is just before Easter.

And that really is unusual – very unusual. At least as far back as I can find reliable data (about 1990), seasonal epidemics always strike slap-bang in mid-winter, not in spring.

Is that all? Please: don’t tell me we’ve suspended civil liberties, shut our schools and put our economy into a coma just because it’s turned up later than these germs normally do? Have we honestly moved 8 million people (and counting) onto the government’s payroll over a virus that has done little more than miss its train?

Let’s have a look. It is actually possible to re-write history and, roughly, see how the epidemic would look if it had struck in mid-winter rather than spring. Here’s the spadework:

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes weekly all-cause mortality (i.e. death) figures for England and Wales, at least back to the early nineties. Since the start of the epidemic, they have also published weekly numbers of people dying with Covid-19 mentioned on death certificates, and they also publish 5-year average numbers of deaths per week, which 2020 was following until Covid-19 came along. So, you can work out excess deaths during the epidemic (i.e. weekly deaths minus 5-year average deaths), and, if in turn you subtract the Covid-19 deaths from this excess figure, you get to what the CMO Chris Whitty calls the “indirect deaths” associated with the epidemic, largely through missed A&E admissions (largely cardiac) and, later, through missed referrals (largely cancer).

Once you have these numbers, it’s simple. Firstly, subtract Covid-19 deaths from March/April and just add them to December 2019/January 2020. Secondly, remove indirect non-Covid excess deaths (‘lockdown deaths’, if you like) from March and April, on the basis that life would have gone on as normal with no lockdown under our imagined scenario, so no missed admissions or referrals. We’re simulating a situation where Covid-19 appeared in mid-winter but life went on as normal.

Two final adjustments: sorry, I said this would be simple, but we’re nearly there. The ONS also publish population figures each year, so in order to compare Covid-19 with previous killer germs you can inflate previous years so that you are comparing ‘apples with apples’. Finally, to make the graph more legible, I have also played the medieval pope and shifted the months so that mid-winter is in the middle of the graph.

So: the dark blue line is 2019-20, with Covid-19; the turquoise and red lines are the bad flu years of 1998-99 and 1999-2000 (clickable larger version at end of article).

Awkward? It would be snarky to suggest that we should retrospectively classify the millennium celebrations as a super-spreader event, so I’ll simply point out that Covid-19 is narrowly in third place as a killer to remember, behind the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 influenzas (2017-18’s ‘Beast from the East’, the green line, doesn’t place), a point also made by American statistician William Briggs.

Hopefully the sage eggheads on SAGE have tried something similarly basic, given these are ONS figures and it took me about half an hour, but if so it’s slightly difficult to see why we are still locked down and why the media seem to have moved Covid-19 up a weight-class.

Thing is: how many of us do remember the winters of 1998-99 and 1999-2000 as being particularly bad flu seasons? I confess: I don’t, but there’s no ‘just’ flu about it: Covid-19 is a serious killer, and so is influenza. One viral disease we seem to have in perspective; the other not so much.

There are really only two particularly unusual things about the Covid-19 epidemic: the timing of its arrival and the lockdown some countries declared. And if we ask “Covid, where is thy sting?”, it is lockdown that will sting: in the UK, the death-toll of people not turning up to hospital with cardiac issues (admissions are down 50% across the country) is now unmissable in the weekly non-Covid excess death figures published by the ONS, now running over 3,000 per week just for England and Wales. The downstream toll from missed cancer diagnoses (referrals are down 67%, as stressed by Professor Sikora) is heartbreak yet to come.

This is to say nothing of the toll on education, liberty and the economy. We’ve given up everything we should hold dear for a virus that just turned up three months later than similar viruses normally do.

 

Clickable larger versions of the graphs:

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81 thoughts on “Alistair Haimes: The virus that turned up late

  1. Coronavirus always peaks last of the three respiratory virus; first rhino, then influenza and coronaviris peaks as spring is just starting.
    What makes this ‘different’ to recent years is that there were hardly any excess deaths from rhino or infuenza during the winter months 19/20. So elderley people with comorbidities who would normally have died through the other virus seasonal peaks were still alive when SARS2 arrived. In reality the people who died ‘with cv-19 probably had an extra 4 months of life than they normally would have had if a ‘bad’ flu season had hit last winter.
    Your general view that this whole thing has been about nothing unusual is spot on. Which leaves with a very nasty taste in the mouth and real concerns about what the motives really are.
    I was in Thailand over 2 months Jan-March, at the beginning there were the usual hoards of chinese tourists up to and including their New Year ( many from Wuhan) . during the whole two months except in the last week , life in Thailand continued as normal, everywhere open and cases and deaths from cv-19 countable on the fingers of one hand. Then something changed, panic ensued , clamp down on travel, lockdown internally. Why? Simple the US announced its measures and everyone jumped into line. This is all factual.
    Where I move into conjecture is why the US behaved as it did. Clearly the IC model forecast of 2m dead had an impact, but this was into fertile ground. The DEMs had already weaponised the virus. I have this horrible suspicion that a lot of our problems now are as a result of one political party and its supporters finding the latest opportunity to denigrate their nemisis. Quite evil if true.

  2. Its also a consequence of the media being increasingly dominated by young people, who thus have no sense of historical perspective. We see it in the climate change debate – weather events that are bog standard in any sort of medium to long term time span are immediately termed ‘unprecedented!’ by the media, whose attention span (and personal experience) hardly goes back more than a decade or so. Thus the idea that something that happened in the 1990s could be relevant to what is happening today would be laughed at.

    Its also proof that despite the constant shrieks that we are living in end times, and unprecedented degrees of human suffering (usually because of ‘austerity’) this virus is showing that in fact the last 2 decades have been incredibly benign ones. We have not been overly tested by such pandemics for a reasonable amount of time, and those periods of low risk always lull people into a false sense of security – if we had a 1918 flu pandemic today I fully expect Western society would collapse into anarchy. Similarly if the UK experienced a winter like 1963, we just wouldn’t be able to deal with it, our society has become too brittle to cope.

  3. “Why? Simple the US announced its measures and everyone jumped into line. ”

    Dont forget the timing almost exactly matches the collapse of the impeachment of Trump. Prior to that the US media was reporting Covid as no big deal. The inversion is quite staggering. The Ferguson model was handy fuel for the flame. Ferguson has predicited doom many times before, the difference is no one paid him any attention or gave his clams any credibility.

    I don’t believe for a second there has been any masterful plan behind this, it’s the sum total of a massive state and media complex that cannot think for themselves and move as a herd.

  4. Very interesting.
    Perhaps you can help me with something I don’t get. Aren’t the numbers coming down because we’re locked down?
    How do you know they wouldn’t just keep going at the same rate? By comparing to Sweden?? TIA. Robert

  5. We had a bad winter a few years ago (the “beast from the east”) and that brought a lot of things to a halt. A bit of snow these days and the schools shut, but I can remember cycling to school in snow in the early 1980s.

  6. “We’re simulating a situation where Covid-19 appeared in mid-winter but life went on as normal.”

    Um, no, you are not. You are simulating a (non-existent) world in which a national lockdown would have zero effect on covid transmission and therefore one where covid deaths are the same with or without lockdown, which is false on its face.

    Then you proceed to compare that to flu seasons in which there was no lockdown. But in the case of covid, there WAS a lockdown. (You may have heard about it? It was on the news and everything)

    The result is that WITH a lockdown, covid was “only” as bad as a pretty bad flu season WITHOUT a lockdown.

    Sounds like the lockdown really helped, then.

  7. Three points. Lockdown started AFTER peak infection and peak hospital admissions. Continuing infections/deaths occuring despite weeks of lockdown because hot spots of infection unaffected by general population, they are in hospitals and care homes. Sweden, Japan, S Korea, Taiwan had no lockdown, considerably less deaths than UK.
    Lockdown has had minimal effect on the normal bell curve of infection/deaths.

  8. @Dene

    +1 I too walked, cycled (then motor-cycled) to school & uni through rain, wind, ice & snow in 1960s-80s

    Life today driven by demands of the minority of vocal pathetic snowflakes’ demands for “no-risk”

  9. The Beast from the East was nothing. It was gone as soon as it arrived, certainly the snow element. It snowed hard on a Thursday if memory serves, and by Saturday the roads were clear again and everything was thawing fast. Transport links were cut/held up for a few days max. A week after it began everything was back to normal. The severe weather in 1963 lasted for over 2 months, deep snow covered the entire country, massive drifts, roads utterly impassable, average temps were below freezing for the entire of January, snow and high winds continued throughout February. If the same happened to the UK today there would be mass deaths due to lack of heating and food. There’s no way the electric and gas grids would manage to stay intact, and food distribution would halt and supplies would run out within days. Communications would break down as well, mobile networks would probably collapse, internet also. It would be utter chaos, in large cities probably anarchy.

  10. The main reason for the continuing high death toll in the UK is the decision by the NHS to throw out tens of thousands of elderly patients from hospital without testing for CV-19, indeed knowing some to be infected, and sending them back into the care home network, thus directly injecting the virus into that sector.

  11. “WITH a lockdown, covid was “only” as bad as a pretty bad flu season WITHOUT a lockdown”.

    “Sounds like the lockdown really helped, then”.

    Just as the tinfoil hat that I have worn continually for the past ten years has successfully protected the Earth from invasion by the hordes of Emperor Ming.

    And the pink doughnuts I scatter in my garden have kept it clear of elephants and T.Rex.

    The fallacy in your reasoning is that you start by assuming that the lockdown helped reduce the severity of the epidemic. But you have absolutely no proof of that.

  12. As a generality you are correct to say that Covid is ‘just another nasty flu’ . But there are two more points to make.
    1 – You had to go back 20 or more years to find a matching death rate from flu. Because we have been getting better and better at treating it, and deaths have been falling year on year since 2000. Flu is now much less of a threat.
    2 – Covid is like flu, but with some important differences. For example, it can suddenly drop your blood oxygen levels to lethal amounts. And not only don’t we know how to cure it; we don’t even know how to treat the symptoms properly. So it’s a new flu that we can’t handle.

    Under those circumstances, I think it’s a good idea to try and suppress the spread for as long as possible, while trying to understand it and improve treatments for it….

  13. “Then something changed, panic ensued , clamp down on travel, lockdown internally. Why? Simple the US announced its measures and everyone jumped into line.”

    Actually, it was China’s Communist Party rulers who first implemented a very public lock down of parts of their country. Media & academia in the West, who can generally be described as “China-friendly”, made a big deal about deaths in China ascribed to this supposedly new virus (although none of them mentioned that 25,000 people die in China on any typical day). Media & academia also provided unusually extensive coverage of the Chinese lock down.

    Consequently, when the virus was found in the West (which it was once people started looking for it), it would have required a better class of politician than we have to resist the media pressure to follow the Chinese lead. It would be wise not to reject out of hand the possibility that that was the plan of China’s leaders all along. Cui bono?

  14. You don’t provide links, so it’s hard to find the data you’re using but I did find a table of all-cause deaths in the year 1999 and this year so far. 0.48% of the population died in 1999 and 0.42% of the population have died so far in 2020. This suggests Covid-19 is profoundly worse than normal. And remember that there are significant restrictions in place which should have reduced mortality.

  15. The graphs from pretty much every country show that it’s quickly dropping away to nothing (even in those countries without a lockdown), so I don’t see the basis for saying ‘we can’t handle it’.

  16. I’m quite dubious as to it all being from people pulling strings. My brother works deep in Hollywood and is totally in agreement with the lockdown and all their cohort have been brief by ‘experts’ who have told them this is the plague.

    I have no doubt that these international organisation are tightly networked with their own underlying agenda’s. Christopher Snowdon has done excellent work showing how these people work in the UK.

    It’s not a conspiracy as such, it’s a large group of people who have various levels of power seeing an opportunity to impost their views on the population, something they have long dreamed of doing.

    They have good intentions. They will simply destroy the world if allowed to follow though on those good intentions.

  17. “Life today driven by demands of the minority of vocal pathetic snowflakes’ demands for “no-risk””

    Just look at the headline today about the Unions not wanting to go back to work until they ‘feel safe’.

    This is the language of infants.

  18. Can you direct me to a source where I can compare the numbers of excess winter deaths over the last 5 years ?

  19. Isn’t it down to the fact that as a result of lockdown, the opportunities for the virus to be transmitted are severely reduced? Far fewer people are going out. Far fewer people are using crowded public transport. Far fewer people are working in environments where they come into close contact with others. And the majority of people when they do go out are (in the main) staying 2m away from others. All of these factors have to reduce the rate of transmission, surely?

    And while I accept that the impact of this may be difficult to prove, surely there is also no proof that the lockdown has had minimal effect? The data in this article is very interesting, but there is a data gap for what would have happened this year if a lockdown hadn’t been imposed, so we can’t know for sure either way.

  20. It’s not like the countries without a lockdown have done nothing though. Sweden have social distancing guidelines in place that a high proportion of the country are adhering to, while South Korea mobilised a large scale and efficient test, trace and isolate approach.

    The difference, for the U.K. at least, is that there was no capability at the peak of the outbreak for the scale of testing required, and a very questionable approach to conformity with government guidelines rather than instruction.

  21. Dare I say that in earlier years, medical certification on death was, for the most part, accurate and the cause of death made clear.
    And now?
    Can these yearly figures ever be properly compared when current medical practice appears to be, at best, vague and at worst……?

  22. You have, because of demographic shifts, most likely an older age profile now than in 1999 as well. More recent years would make better comparisons except it’s a while since we had a proper killer ‘flu. Given mean life expectancy of the order of 75-80 years, somewhat over 1% of a stable population would be expected die each year.

    I agree that a lot of the deaths are probably deaths delayed rather than brought forward, and suspect overall mortality this year will be barely above average (single-digit percentage). The impact of lockdown will be difficult to assess until you see the effect of not-lockdown, perhaps, in parts of Africa where lockdown is economically impossible, but good luck in getting good data on that.

  23. I have to agree. The fact that a lot of States are kicking the reopening into the long grass is obviously politically motivated in this election year. I can’t help feeling that civil unrest is the Democrats real goal in all this. A President will not get re elected when the streets are burning.

  24. It does appear to drop oxygen levels (and encourages red blood cell coagulation) but this is not necessarily a problem as CO2 does not get to dangerous levels even though O2 is below “normal”. Interesting stuff.

  25. You’ve lined up noise, with a real event, and drawn a whole load of false conclusions.

    Every year you see a dip in week 52, flat in week 1 and a spike up in week 2 as all the backlogged deaths not processed in week 52 get recorded. Here is a plot up to wk 15…
    https://miro.medium.com/max/500/1*Usi8G2ZWpAnfSYKa4MVh8g.png

    All the recent years in your plot show this pattern, there was in reality no spike in deaths around Christmas/New Year in any of these years. Storm Emma and the 2018 flu deaths occurred in week 10-16, and you can see the 2k lift per week in deaths this brought about, this is the reality of what you should be comparing to.

    Except, we have had no cold snap this year, yet 6 times the excess weekly mortality in a lockdown that has dramatically curtailed the spread.

    As to the spikes from 1999/2000 and 1998/99:
    1) You’ve not placed the lines at the same level as current data so the spikes look bigger
    2) 1998/99 has a dip down in week 52, smaller than more recent years so not cancelling entirely the week 2 spike, but certainly lowering alot, the same reporting lag problem.
    3) 1999/2000 was Y2K, not only do I not believe the reporting, it also corresponded to a similar period of panic, lockdown and services grinding to halt.
    4) I’d want to actually validate the equivalence of reporting before making such bold claims.
    5) These years a not frequent, once in 25 year events, and from a time where we had very different healthcare and longevity expectations.

    What you’re totally missing is not that the CFR for 2018 flu was 0.5% (about the same as Covid), it is that it had an r0 of about 1.1, took about 6% of the population being infected to burn out naturally. Covid has an r0 of about 3 and would have taken about 65% to burn out natrually, about 10x the number of people.

    Your analysis is seriously flawed.

  26. . . . in a lockdown that has dramatically curtailed the spread.

    Assumes you – doesn’t make it true though. The slowdown in the rise of cases began before the lockdown and has continued smoothly since. There is no “dramatic” indication in the data to show the lockdown had an effect more significant than the “Swedenish” measures that preceded it.

  27. @Tom Welsh

    Infected in UK peaked Before Lockdown, after social distancing and cleanliness promoted and adopted. Sweden continued on this path, UK Gov’t panicked

    A Gov’t that panics is not worth having

  28. @Dodgy

    UK Flu 2014/15 – not > 20 years ago

    …Between December 2014 and March 2015 there were 44,000 excess winter deaths

    …Deaths peaked on 1 January last winter when daily deaths were 35% higher than the five-year average. The first part of 2015 (5 to 11 January) also saw weekly deaths at 15,000, the highest number in any given week since the last two weeks of December 1999 and first two weeks of January 2000, when flu levels were very high.

    Daily deaths were above the five-year average on 304 out of 365 days in 2014/15…
    https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/highestnumberofexcesswinterdeathssince19992000/2015-11-25

    Daily deaths Higher than 2020 and No Lockdown

    Figures:
    ONS: UK average daily deaths is 1,680, but until now we accepted peeps die

    Wuhan Virus: Global Epidemic, Pandemic? No*
    Started end Nov 2019, now in Month Six and
    Global Population ~7.8 Billion – 7,800,000,000
    May 05, 2020, 17:48 GMT – Wuhan Virus Global Deaths 255,595 (~0.003%)
    May 10, 2020, 17:37 GMT – Wuhan Virus Global Deaths 282,516 (~0.003%)

    Annual Flu Deaths in UK is ~20,000-35,000 and all cause annual deaths in UK ~680,000

    Reaction is baffling to me

    * A pandemic is an epidemic of disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of people – 0.4% of population infected is not ‘substantial’, 0.003% dying is not ‘substantial’

  29. Pcar: “Reaction is baffling to me.”

    Me too. Based on some conversations about C-19/Lockdowns I have had with people who take it all very seriously, it seems there is an unbridgeable communication gap.

    The people who are frightened by the C-19 scam are reacting emotionally to the news media’s propaganda on individuals suffering & dying. They feel empathy for those who are suffering, but have no context for the asserted C-19 “pandemic”; no understanding of who is at risk from the virus; no idea how many people die every day in normal times; no concept of how many people die from flu each year; no understanding of how low even flu ranks on causes of mortality. The numbers & the context don’t matter to those people who are reacting emotionally.

    The best analogy is probably with the death of Princess Di — and the mawkish outpouring of public grief. Gone was the WWII-era English stiff upper lip. The reaction was emotional, not rational.

    Why does emotion seem to have become more important than reason? Now there is a question!

  30. “The best analogy is probably with the death of Princess Di — and the mawkish outpouring of public grief. Gone was the WWII-era English stiff upper lip. The reaction was emotional, not rational.”

    Yes, and Blair knew exactly how he could exploit that.

    Quite a few years ago there was a spate of violence in mid Africa where rumors were spread of a gang of men who could steal your penis by shaking your hand. This rumor was spread by text messages and I thought at the time it was interesting to see a combination of technology and primitivism. The west has now done exactly the same thing. Reacted with pure emotion to twitter/facebook rumors, then fueled by governments that abandoned responsibility in exchange for cowing to the chattering classes. Their arrogance that they are smarter than others and that experts are to be ‘believed’ is nothing more than a shamanistic view of the world.

  31. I am going to be contrarian here. I hope this is all true. If it is true, then cases will continue to drop and we will sail through all the colour bands quickly. The real battle will then be over the soul of our country. Our ruling classes myths need to be assaulted. All the talk of “best in the world” has been shown to be self-serving fantasy. We need root and branch reform of the civil service and quangocracy.

  32. World changing post Alistair. Well done.
    Great additional thoughts in this comment, I would add the Brit media to the Dems and USA MSM.

  33. Great Article and very informative. Can we all now get back to work and a semblance of normality in society and stop behaving like a group of petrified chickens in the henhouse when faced by a brace of hungry Foxes. Lets show some Proportionality, Perspective and some Positivity and get on with our lives.

  34. It is responsible for a number (and nobody knows how big a number) of strokes and heart attacks caused by clotting and possibly these are not going down as covid deaths, their classification seems to be a lottery. The blood issue is far more important than you or the NHS seem to think.

  35. I don’t know what “data” you’re looking at, but the evidence is pretty conclusive to me. If you look from our peak at the rolling 7 day average of daily new hospital cases per 1m of the population between the two countries:

    10th of April
    SE: 49.6
    UK: 68.5

    10th of May
    SE: 55.9 so 113%
    UK: 29.4 so 43%

    Given we’ve held the difference in behaviour in the two countries pretty constant over the last month this is a very stable measure of the effect of the two policies.

    Read this don’t be ill informed by bad analysis…
    https://medium.com/pragmapolitic/in-the-uk-did-the-lockdown-tip-the-balance-2cb1cd8d5437

  36. You can’t compare overall new cases for exactly the reasons you give, but you can compare very well hospital tested cases. People go to hospital at a similar symptom level in both countries. The rate per 1m of the population at which hospitals are finding new cases is a very good measure of relative infection rates.

  37. I don’t know what “data” you’re looking at . . .”

    The same data used for the green line in your graph, which clearly illustrates my point (thanks). New infections have been dropping since before the lockdown, and at a similar rate. Where on the line is the indication of a dramatic curtailment from the lockdown?

    There really is no need to obfuscate matters by comparing countries (and their commuter traffic?), just look at the data for the UK. New infections have been dropping at a similar rate since before the lockdown. If the “dramatic” lockdown had an effect it is too small to see compared to whatever caused the rate to drop in the first place.

  38. I reached the age of 65 without knowing that blood oxygen uptake level was a key measure of health. Not good, as I now know you can measure it in 10 seconds with a £20 device.

    I was however aware that being obese brings with it a myriad of problems. The virus appears to highlight one more.

    I hope that this experience will encourage us to re-focus the NIS (National Illness Service) more towards dealing with maintaining the health (that’s the H bit) of the nation, rather than paying massive amounts to repair it.

  39. There is a difference between no risk and unknown risk. If you are told you could be at risk due to genetic make- up, or unknown underlying health issues, both of which you cannot know, then there is a risk. This virus differentiates from flu in that it attacks the lungs, not just the immune system. Flu can kill, but doesn’t leave many on ventilation. The whole point of a lockdown is to halt the spread as far as possible and enable the health system to deal with severe cases, without being overwhelmed, so if you or your family end up there, you will get treated.

  40. So all the countries that imposed lockdown have governments that panicked? Have a look at how many countries went into lockdown presumable all under scientific advice.

  41. “This virus differentiates from flu in that it attacks the lungs, not just the immune system.”

    What are you talking about? Flu does attack the lungs.

    “Flu can kill, but doesn’t leave many on ventilation. ”

    (a) Flu can be deadly, and can have many nasty complications. (b) It became clear ages ago that ventilator use isn’t that useful for Covid, and there is no shortage of ventilators.

  42. Great read. Thanks. What is being politicized in the US is the complete lack of coherent response and planning by the Trump administration. How could you believe any of the incoherent jabber coming from the podium when he lies as easy as he breathes. Now as states are testing reopening we get data from outside the federal government that people will believe and then recognize that there was an over reaction in some states. A state by state plan is the best way to go. Sweden is the size of a smaller state in the US. Customized reopening is appropriate for many any hot spot flare ups

  43. Looking to silver linings of COVID19…realities that I pray come home to roost.
    Economy: A shift in balance from a wants based economy which was unsustainable to a needs based economy. I am optimistic that those who have financial capital to invest will no longer look to investing in things people want but what we need and although traditionally investments in farms that we all depend on are not the source of windfall returns to the investor they are stable long term and through pandemnics.
    Health: Boris Johnson has woken up to the reality that the population in GB as a whole is metabolically unfit… Other nations will soon see the reality and the hypocritical LFHC and vegan dietary dogma of the last 30 and recent should come through as just that….and a move to HFLC diets will have far more positive effects to society than bankrupting nations with spending on bandaids to no real benefit long term, when what we need is a population that has less metabolic disease, that only comes about from giving up carbs and junk food…a wants expense…the best way to reduce healthcare spending is to reduce the need for it because people don’t get sick to start with.
    Over crowding: The reality that we can’t continue to warehouse our seniors, they are our fathers and mothers and more will be done to keep them well at home.
    Decentralization of Mega hospitals and healthcare centers which will benefit rural areas and lead to better disaster preparedness and back up in the future.

  44. I think this article ignores that some measures were announced on March 11/12 and real social distancing was announced on March 16 (excerpt for Johnson’s March 17 speech below, who by the way almost died of this overblown cold). The Ro was not certain at that time, and is now thought to be 5-6 rather than ~3 as mentioned above. Add to this that being a novel coronavirus, no one had immunity and there was (and is ) no vaccine, which obviously meant elderly and immunocompromised were especially and irremediably vulnerable. We know now that masks do make a big difference in transmission (from the person wearing them), and this was initially followed in Asian countries but not the West which could explain (in addition to much better testing and contact tracing) why countries like S Korea did so much better than Italy, UK, US etc even without as extreme quarantine measures. So I really think the analysis presented is myopic and misleading, and although I believe this should be clear to most laymen like myself, I would hope some with more training in this area and direct knowledge of this pandemic would chime in to clarify things.
    “This is a disease that is so dangerous and so infectious that without drastic measures to check its progress it would overwhelm any health system in the world.I have used the Italian health system, it is excellent, and the problem is not the health system, it’s the numbers of sufferance.
    That is why we announced the steps yesterday that we did – advising against all unnecessary contact – steps that are unprecedented since World War 2.
    They will have an effect on the spread of the disease.
    The shielding of vulnerable groups will also reduce suffering, and I want to thank everybody at this stage for what we’re all doing to follow this advice.”

  45. Perhaps we could coin a counter-term: herd impunity — the willingness to be stampeded in whatever direction created by global media propaganda.

  46. Unlike flu, coronaviruses typically run from December to April, so this virus was right on time, not late as the headline suggests. Otherwise a very interesting article.

  47. It was easy to follow and believe you until you made this a democratic blame. Your credibility went down the rabbit hole.

  48. Many politically based arguments use Sweden as a landmark that staying open did not have any case difference. However here is a letter from a friend from Sweden. It will give you a real perspective.Always so nice to wake up to a message from you!

    “All is well here. I have seen some of the reports on Sweden and some seem pretty accurate and some (I think) give a skewed impression.

    We do not have a lock-down. Stores, restaurants, bars and hotels are open. Sport and entertainment events are prohibited. Any event that brings more than 50 people together are prohibited.

    Some reports show some popular restaurants, typically outdoor seating, where there are many visitors. Or the most popular parks where people are out or walking along a main street. It is not prohibited. Restaurants, bars and shops must observe the public health regulation which requires no buffet, no hanging at a bar, two meters minimum space between people who are not in the same small company. Pick-up of food without going past tables (like at a back door or pick-up window). Stores must also accommodate for social distancing through restricting number of people in the store and waiting lines to the cashier or to get in with 2 meters between people.

    As the spring sun and warm weather has come out and people are tiring at staying at home and some go out. The health authorities have been monitoring restaurants, bars and stores and if they violate the regulations, they get a warning and a fine. Next time, they get closed.

    It is not just “business as usual”. Although we don’t have a lockdown, the high schools and universities all closed for distance learning about a month ago. Non-essential public employees work from home and government offices are all physically closed with employees working from home.

    The government has issued strong and repeated advice to stay at home except for essential grocery or drug shopping. Outdoor exercise is encouraged, but with 2 meter social distancing except within immediate family. People with risk factors and over 70 are especially urged to stay at home and not meet any family members or friends who are not living with them.

    Already last month, about 85 – 90% of restaurant, bar and hotel employees were laid-off. Some are struggling by offering pick-up, home delivery or “weeke­nd” bags with ingredients and recipes you can prepare at home. Many restaurants and bars are now closed and filings for bankruptcy roll in. Hotels have been offering long-term rentals and using their rooms as office space as the hotel occupancy is under 5%.

    Many large employers like the Volvo factory and furniture manufactures have closed due to both inability to ensure the two-meters and health requirements and also because hardly anyone is shopping. This makes their suppliers also struggle. Shops are offering home delivery and discounts. Shopping centers are practically deserted and many shops say they will soon have to close and go bankrupt. They can’t pay their employees and rent.

    The airlines have basically closed, laying everyone off. SAS (our main airline) is operating 2 or 3 flights every couple of days for essential transport between three main Swedish cities. Taxi companies are in crisis with a drop of about 85% of business. In the EU there is a travel ban for people coming in from outside the EU, except for essential travel and returning residents.

    So while, a reporter can find some places where people are out and about, these places are limited and it is mostly people in their 20s – 30s who probably think they are not likely to get the virus and if they do, it will be mild. And they don’t think about the fact that they can easily spread the virus as they mingle, shop, eat, and take the bus or subway home again.

    We see lots more families walking along the water near our house. I guess one positive thing is that families are spending more time together. Dogs are getting more exercise than ever! Jogging has become very popular. People are busy spring cleaning (the outdoor recycle center is busy, but people try to observe the 2 meters distance) and everyone’s yards are looking well-kept.

    So brief, Sweden is not in lock-down and is much more open than other countries. But most people are staying at home and unemployment and bankruptcy have sharply risen. People are getting depressed and people with addictions and vulnerabilities are particularly at risk. It is clear that it will take many, many years before society recovers. Hopefully, it will lead to everyone, including politicians and business, realizing that we need to ensure a better foundation for everyone in society and build for more resilience.

    Sigge and I are fortunate. We are healthy, have a big house with a yard, can take walks along the sea and into the woods. While the stock market is volatile, we are in pretty good shape. Our kids still have jobs and mine is safe until I soon retire.

    But so so so many people are not at all safe. The tragedies that await in poor countries are unimaginable. Even in the US the loss of jobs and with it health care will create so much misery and consequent disruptions to health, families, society (crime, depression, anger, addictions, domestic abuse, divorce, etc.)-

    Stay safe! We care much about you and Mike and hope we can meet soon.

    Hugs, love and aloha,”

  49. This isn’t about “believing”. The author wasn’t asking you to “believe” him. He showed data and explained it. The data is either correct (appears to be) or it isn’t.

  50. If you are correct that “in both cases the effective R number is reduced at some point”, then why would you prefer or consider the lockdown more life-saving, than the Sweden approach?

  51. You mean the end of cold and flu season.
    It still amazes me that people that know they have been lied to continue to believe the same liars word of the existence of a ” new deadly disease Covid”.
    People that talk about mind control and don’t know where their mind control program started and it was with this lie of a “new virus causing a new deadly disease”.

  52. The reason why its the same symptoms is that because it was winter cold and flu season, there is no new disease .
    The ( PCR and antibody )tests are meaningless esp meaningless for the existence of a new deadly disease.
    (The PCR takes unpurified contaminated human DNA samples and tries to transcribe rna from this does not differentiate between common cold corona and sars corona1 it only deals with a very small number of nucleotides 100 out of 30,000 ) and can be cross contaminated with the quadrillions of other viruses on and in us at any time.
    Analyzing the false data results in more false data.

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